Senate Appropriations Committee Approves $20 Million for Gateway

This afternoon, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to appropriate $20 million to Amtrak for design and engineering of the Gateway Project, the railroad’s proposal to add two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River and expand NY Penn Station. The vote follows last week’s report challenging Governor Chris Christie’s cost estimates of the canceled ARC tunnel and calls from several outletslegislators and Amtrak to support the Gateway plan

Ray Smith reports for Politicker NJ:

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee today approved $20 million for Amtrak to continue work on the Gateway Tunnel project, according to a release from the offices of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ).The $20 million is part of the 2013 fiscal year U.S. Senate Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Bill. The bill still has to be approved by the full Senate.

Whether Amtrak will see this money or not remains unclear. Even if the full Senate approves, it’s likely that the appropriations will need to be reconciled with spending plans in the House, where support for transit and Amtrak has been less popular.

Nevertheless, Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ), who just yesterday argued with Bill Baroni, the Deputy Director of the Port Authority of NY and NJ, over ARC and bridge tolls, greeted today’s vote with praise and continued to push for the project. In a joint release with Senator Menendez (D-NJ), Lauteneberg again called Gateway as “critical to addressing our state’s transportation crisis” and promised to “continue working to secure federal funds to advance the project.” Menendez also praised the vote, but also prepared advocates for a long journey for full funding: “This funding is an important step in a long process to get this project under construction.”

Last November, Congress approved $15 Million for design and engineering. If today’s appropriation is approved, Amtrak’s total for engineering would be $35 Million. That amount is a far cry from the total cost of the project, which Amtrak estimated last year at $10 Billion.

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